Care-workers still fighting for life-saving PPE

Carers fight for PPE
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By a care-worker

Care workers throughout this pandemic have as always continued to care for the country’s most vulnerable citizens. 

We are usually overlooked and undervalued except by those we look after. We now have a grand title, we are “critical workers”. We know we have always been critical in any decent society – however it’s an improvement on “low-skilled”! 

As care workers we have had to fight for additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 crisis. First we were told we didn”t need face masks. So, while most of the country is staying at home for their protection, all care-workers need is their magic uniform! Or we could make do with just basic PPE if we are assisting with personal care: a simple apron, gloves, and hand-sanitizer. Then we were advised that if we were to care for service users confirmed or suspected of having Covid-19, we would get additional PPE, a coverall, goggles, face masks, shoe protectors and clinical waste bags, In this instance all PPE was to be double-bagged and left with the client for 72 hours before being disposed of in the normal way, except for goggles which were to be cleaned and reused. 

But it isn”t always obvious that someone has Covid-19. They can be contagious before showing any symptoms, or asymptomatic, so why not PPE for every care session? We did hear at this point that care workers in homes were being advised to reuse coveralls, as the local authority were having difficulty sourcing them.  I sent a sharp email to management which stopped this practice immediately.

But then bad turned to worse as Public Health England told us we no longer required coveralls when caring for Covid-19 service users, and that an apron should be used. How does an apron protect your uniform from spray from coughing or sneezing? This is the uniform you wear home, or on to the next person you are caring for. Care workers are worried about either passing the virus on to other clients or taking the virus home to their families.

We continue to have difficulty with shortages of different PPE products. The government has had many weeks now to rectify the shortages of PPE, by sourcing it from other countries or by initiating production on a mass scale here, to protect all key workers, clients, and the wider population.

The current guidance on PPE fails to protect service users and care workers, just as it does in the NHS.

The tragic deaths within care homes are a consequence of not testing service users before discharge from hospital and not enough PPE or proper guidance on its use. 

Carol Starr
Branch secretary Nottingham city council
Chair East Midlands United Left